Down By the Sea

Down By the Sea

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Some beach somewhere, there’s a big umbrella casting shade over an empty chair. Palm trees are growing, warm breezes blowing. I picture myself there, some beach somewhere.” 

-Anonymous

The breezy salty air of the beach allows for refuge and relaxation from the outside world of our lives.  It seems to surround us with feelings of calmness and nostalgia as the cool waves softy wash ashore.  Shells scatter the ground, sand warms our feet and children and adults alike can be heard laughing at a distant conversation. The sandcastle creators leave after sunset and become one of the masses in taking down their umbrellas.  As they trek home to their separate lives, the animals that call the beach home settle down or arise for the night as the crowded beloved space, becomes quite.

Beaches are extremely susceptible to human damage as they are a popular destination to relax and enjoy the warmer weather.  Coastal urbanization damages the natural surroundings that the beach entails such as sand dunes, diminished water quality and erosion.  The reduced space on a beach is a large problem to the state of the shore as sand is very susceptible to being moved heavily by wind.  Sand dunes, natures way of protecting the beach created by wind on the shoreline, are disappearing.  Planting vegetation is a efficient and natural way to help prevent sand from being blown out of the beach area.  Plants native to the area are the best option such as Red Sand Verbena in California and Beach Bur throughout western United States.  These plants add to the beach ecosystems and provides a natural buffer for storm surges and sand displacement.

Beach with Pink Sand Verbena

Most plants prosper at the highest point on the beach called the coastal strand.  Plants such as Pink Sand Verbena thrive in the salty conditions.  Plants in this environment grow outward rather than upward. These plants are usually succulent and have light grey leaves to protect against too much sun exposure and water grave loss of moisture.

Beach plants also aid in the structure of sand dunes which are caused by the plants capturing the sand displacement by wind or other natural elements.  After time races by, sturdy mounds form from sand buildup.  Sand dunes can aid against storm surges caused by flooding which would protect urban communities living by the sea.  The more general practice of  beach grooming which is especially done at more populous beaches, hurts these native plants and hurts the beach’s chance at protection against surges.  Beach grooming is preformed to rid the beach of excess kelp and waste left behind by beach-goers. Creating a flat surface, grooming rids the shore of its natural topography and makes it unnaturally flat. Grooming loosens the sand making it more susceptible to wind displacement and prevents the roots of beach plants from obtaining a sturdy position

Conserving our beaches is important in preserving the poetic landscape of our world environment.  Negative human interaction such as grooming and ridding the shoreline from its native plants creates a negative environment for the beach to thrive.  By understanding the natural process the beach undergoes in creating the peaceful landscape, the home to many creatures and destination for humans can continue to be the place we all know; the calming, thought provoking and beautiful sea.

 

Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone.”  -Anonymous

 

Interesting Links

Native Beach Plants and Conservation

United Nations Environment 

Beach Conservation

10 Ways to Keep Beaches Clean

 

What Was That?

Q. What does beach grooming mean?

A. Beach grooming is a very common practice done at high traffic beaches.  You’ve probably seen it if you’ve been on the boardwalk after-dark at your favorite coastal spot.  Check out this video to see the practice carried out.

Q. What does a natural sand dune look like?

A.  Sand dunes form from winds carrying sand from their location on the beach.  It usually allows plants to have sturdier roots where they can thrive in the organic environment.  Check out this image where a high height plant flourishes.

Sand dune formation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Katelyn Goetten

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